My leisure reading life and my work life are intersecting currently and in truth a little bit late. I spend a lot of time in the Mayflower Exhibition when I am working in the museum.
Both the exhibition and the book have the same constraint. Very little is known about the actual Mayflower Voyage. Difficult for Historians but good for me as the original source material is the same. The curators of the exhibition do a brilliant job of explaining and expanding the known facts and illustrate them well with actual artifacts. The 60 years following the voyage of the Mayflower is the significant part of the narrative for history and probably the least accurately portrayed by the Thanksgiving myth and beyond. As I read the book my mind is illustrated with the items and documents I spend my day with.
This makes my reading of the book jog along very nicely. Neither the exhibition nor the book allow sentimental and fictional nostalgia, the darkness and brutality of the settlement and the impact on the indigenous people is all part of the story of European Colonisation. In reality the book is not a comfortable or easy read, but I didnt expect it to be.
Friday follows Thursday. In Pandemic terms yesterday was my first working day at The Box ( Plymouths Museum, gallery and general cultural space) since the government announced Freedom Day when all legal restrictions were lifted on the English public and organisations and individuals are free to decide the level of restriction they wish to self impose.
Suddenly a huddle of strangers is considered to be a safe option. The Box as an organisation decided not to go into full on super spreader event and restrictions remained much as they have been for many months, so the only obvious crowd were these Mayflower passengers. The museum visitors were still booked in and limited in numbers but they were, I felt more willing to engage and interact with the gallery guides and yesterday felt like the museum had a much more normal buzz about it. It helps, of course that the museum has wonderful air conditioning and we are in the midst of a heatwave.
Heatwaves are a summer thing and this morning a heatwave picture popped up on my Facebook Memories page. I wish I had remembered this image earlier in the pandemic because it is a pretty good image to demonstrate looking after yourself in a pandemic.
There was a time when Thursday blogs were based on my experiences as a gallery guide at The Box. A Pandemic put a stop to that but here we are on a Thursday and this blog will be distinctly Boxlike.
Not Real World of course. Another new tech experience .
The Box Quiz
The low tech answer sheet.
What I can’t show you are my fellow competitors. Microsoft Teams was new to me and I had failed to download the system . In consequence only the hosts/quizmasters were visible to me eveyone else was just a disembodied voice as I was to them!
The questions were fired at us at speed, all the better to thwart googling cheats. It was a fabulous quiz and reassuring that I could actually retrieve random facts from my pandemic befuddled mind.
As it happens @theoldmortuary did quite well. Which just goes to prove that straddling the digital/ Analogue divide is entirely possible, especially if you have your comfy pants on. Or even if you don’t. No video evidence!
Baubles, stars and twinkle. I’ve always been a museum and gallery kind of person. When my children were small I always chose a theme to keep them interested. I used the same thought process for my shift at The Box today, hunting out Christmas decorations cunningly disguised as exhibits in the Natural History Department. The magnificent egg collection was an easy replacement for baubles.
Cushion Starfish make pretty good stars.
Twinkle was provided by beetles and minerals.
Even the mince pie gift at the end of the day seemed a little closer to a starfish than a star.
All these pictures were taken in the Mammoth Gallery. For once she was not the main event. But she is not to be ignored.
My first day back at The Box after Lockdown 2, and my first day in a new- to-me gallery.
I could give you the official description of Port of Plymouth 1 but yesterday for an hour or so I had a unique experience. The gallery was almost empty and I had the chance to explore it unencumbered with any responsibility for the well being of visitors.
The portrait above is of an anonymous fisherman, he is the human face of the character of this gallery. The gallery yesterday represented to me the biography of the city. Port of Plymouth 1 tells the story, the basis almost, of every other gallery in the museum. The sort of thing that might be written on the back of a funeral service booklet to give an over view of the deceaseds life. Of course Plymouth has not died and under current circumstances enjoys relatively good health.
I deliberately chose a man’s photograph because the gallery has a woman’s voice. Dawn French narrates two audio visual presentations within Port 1 and while you are in the space you are never very far away from her voice. This is a brilliant piece of gender balance because inevitably Port 1 is for the most part a man’s world. Not because women played no part in the history of Plymouth but because history has traditionally sidelined women’s contribution. It is only really the 20 th Century exhibits that begin to truly reflect the importance of women to the city.
As you enter Port of Plymouth 1 there is a massive 3D screen showing a film presentation of the developmental history of Plymouth. The film is one of the exhibits narrated by Dawn French. Currently with Covid-19 restrictions only about twelve people can view it at any one time, with so few people it is hard to gauge the impact but later in my morning a whole school group of about 40 watched it together and the impact on them as a large group was remarkable, when the museum can open as normal this will be a memorable group activity.
@theoldmortuary we are in the process of moving home. It was a little bit strange to view our proposed new location as history evolved over it and in the WW2 era bombs landed very close.
Ambient Lighting in Port of Plymouth 1 is subdued but the lighting of each exhibit is so beautifully done that even when it is full of people ( a future aspiration) it is really easy to concentrate and understand the significance of each exhibit.
One historic artifact was simple but poignant.
The Falklands Conflict left a big mark on the recentish memory of Plymouth
This is the point that pondering has to stop, just like the Dockyard Gate photo above, the visitors started to arrive. There is loads more to talk about but visitor safety and smiling took over my time.
I apologise for this week’s blogging being a little ‘Art’ heavy.
Today is another day at The Box. An organisational conundrum gave me the theme for today’s blog. Volunteers have to check into the Breakout Room to collect their passes and sign in for their session. The conundrum is that to gain access to the Breakout room you need a pass. Inevitably this leads to a bit of hanging around until someone with a pass appears or someone inside realises you are waiting to be granted access. Today I had a bit of a wait but while waiting I noticed this mural in the education room opposite.
The mural was painted in 1950 by Wyn George in, what was, the Children’s Department of the Central Library. At the time he was an Art teacher at Devonport High School for Boys. He was also President of Plymouth Society of Artists, a position he held for 20 years 1951-71. The mural was discovered behind boarding during the building of the box. The original sketches and plans were held in the archives, using them, the mural was able to be brought back to its current vibrant appearance.
Wyn George was born in Wales in 1910, but loved the landscape of Cornwall. He exhibited with Newlyn and St Ives Societies of Artists. He trained to be a teacher at Central School of Art London following earlier studies at Cardiff School of Art. During the war he was a Navigational Officer in the Royal Navy. He lived and had a studio in Ivybridge when he was teaching in Plymouth He died in 1985
This mural was one of two that he was commissioned to do in Plymouth. The other is at The Guildhall. Something to investigate for a future blog.